Toad in a Tomb
December 17, 2002 11:00 AM   Subscribe

Animals trapped in stone have been reported many times, but do you believe it? Why has there been so little investigation of these claims? It could be the key to re-animation...
posted by agregoli (36 comments total)
(Inspired by the taxidermy link of late.)
posted by agregoli at 11:11 AM on December 17, 2002

Bug-eyed Earl was wondering about this just last week.
posted by TedW at 11:15 AM on December 17, 2002

From the first article:

"The true interpretation of these alleged occurrences appears to be simply this - a frog or toad is hopping about while a stone is being broken, and the nonscientific observer immediately rushes to the conclusion that he has seen the creature dropping out of the stone itself," says a writer in 'Nature'.

Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence. That an individual frog or turtle has been encased, in what would, presumably, be some sort of state of suspended animation, for hundereds/thousands/millions of years, is a claim that strikes me as a bit ill-considered.
posted by dgaicun at 11:35 AM on December 17, 2002

Surely most of us have seen that classic documentary of a frog living many years in a box. I mean, of course, One Froggy Evening featuring Michigan J. Frog. Still available from Warner Bros.
posted by rbgilbert at 11:39 AM on December 17, 2002

However, most of the claims involved the material being the exact shape of the animal that it incased.

I'm not a loony, I'm not saying it's true without more direct evidence, but I think it's worth more of a look than it's gotten.
posted by agregoli at 11:45 AM on December 17, 2002

An adder was found alive in the center of a block of marble thirty feet in diameter? Well, I'll go out on a limb here and say that this is a huge, steaming pile of horseshit. The only thing that I'll concede is that a frog could be found inside of a chunk of mud that had hardened. The Australian water-holding frog buries itself in the mud in a cocoon made of its own cast-off skin, where it can live for up to seven years awaiting rain. But inside genuine rock, marble or wood? Horseshit.
posted by waldo at 11:56 AM on December 17, 2002

Well, I thought it was an interesting fable/"phenomenon" that had never been posted to mefi before. Be as intrigued or as snarky as you see fit.
posted by agregoli at 12:00 PM on December 17, 2002

Hello, my baby,
Hello, my honey,
Hello, my ragtime gal!
Send me a kiss by wire;
Baby my heart's on fire!
posted by imaswinger at 12:06 PM on December 17, 2002

agregoli, I don't think you have to defend yourself or try to steer discussion in the comments.

waldo, what does it live off of for those seven years? Are there other non insect animals that can suspend themselves like that?
posted by mdn at 12:09 PM on December 17, 2002

I'm not sure it is worth more of a look, your post asked "Why has there been so little investigation of these claims?" ...
And the answer is pretty obvious: it goes against absolutely everything we know about biology and the only recent "evidence" is an ancedotal account from construction workers in 1975. As dgaicun said above "Extraordinary claims need extraordinary evidence." And here the evidence isn't even ordinary, its weak and is about the same as the thousands of other paranormal/supernatural claims littering the www.

Its not snarky, I believe people are responding to the question you posed. "Because its horseshit" is a fair answer.
posted by malphigian at 12:13 PM on December 17, 2002

You'd think someone would save the "molds" left behind by the entombed animals. It would be a simple matter to determine whether they were genuine.
posted by rotifer at 12:16 PM on December 17, 2002

Some people think that ancient architecture was made of stone that had been softened and compressed into place rather than quarried.

Obviously these toads know the secret of the ancients! They weren't entombed in the stone, they burrowed in for a quick nap!
posted by Cerebus at 12:20 PM on December 17, 2002

The only way these people will be satisfied with a scientists explanation is if the verdict is in their favour. The popular press doesn't report on most scientific work, especially not the refutation of individual paranormal cases. They'll occasionally put out puff pieces that talk about the boogey man or whatever, which gets pointed to as evidence that there's something strange going on which science is either ignoring or actively covering up.

To paraphrase something from Carl Sagan's Demon Haunted World certain people believe religiously in something. It's like believing there's a monster in your closet as a kid. Your mother can open the closet and shine a light in it, but rather than realizing that there isn't a monster in your closet you decide that the monster is invisible. She then sprinkles some flour in your closet and closes the door. If there's a monster there will be footprints. In the morning she checks and there are no footprints. Well, obviously the monster flies, or its ghost-like body doesn't leave fingerprints (but it'll still tear you to shreds). Some people maintain a child-like state about certain subjects, right up until their deaths.
posted by substrate at 12:23 PM on December 17, 2002

turtles inside concrete I can almost buy -- we have turtles and they can certainly hibernate as long as the temperature is below a certain point. although I'm guessing the poor concrete turtle was pretty traumatized if it ever woke up at all during the year.

other reptiles inside hardened mud or clay, sure I can see how it's possible (but unlikely).

the block of stone is a bit much, however.

the real answer is that agregoli's future-self got hold of some cool matter-displacement tech and a time machine, and is fscking around with the more fortean-minded of us...
posted by dorian at 12:24 PM on December 17, 2002

Continuing my thought above, if your mom said "Yes, I'm afraid there is a monster in your closet." you'd believe it, even as the child-welfare folks dragged her away.
posted by substrate at 12:24 PM on December 17, 2002

You're right, I don't have to defend myself, but this is exactly why I never want to post to metafilter.

I think nature is doing things all the time that are unbelieveable, and I'm willing to explore stories like these. I'll obviously have to do more reading outside of the internet, because there isn't enough evidence here. Anyway, I'm through, hope someone enjoyed the notion.
posted by agregoli at 12:35 PM on December 17, 2002

Read all about it.
posted by trondant at 12:56 PM on December 17, 2002

Looks like Scotty's been hitting the Saurian brandy again and beaming frogs into rocks.
posted by QuestionableSwami at 1:00 PM on December 17, 2002 [1 favorite]

agregoli: Sorry you got your feelings hurt. In all honesty though, you seem to have expected a different response than you received and this has put you off. That's your decision, but when you release your thoughts "into the wild" you have to be prepared for disagreement or even backlash, although I don't think there was a backlash on this posting.

I enjoyed the post because I have a bit of an interest in stories of the paranormal. Please thicken your skin and return with more of the same.
posted by botono9 at 1:11 PM on December 17, 2002

OK, I'm quite the skeptic myself, but I have to take issue with a lot of the naysayers here.

Yes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. But they also demand further investigation, particularly claims such as this which have been so little investigated. I mean, it's one thing to dismiss UFO claims without evidence, since so many hundreds have already been investigated and found to be lacking in any credible evidence. But claims of these type are far rarer, and have been little investigated.

Especially when some of the claims are so easily studied!! I was particularly intrigued by this passage:
According to the Michigan Argus of December 1st, 1871, one man was so curious about these stories he tried his own experiment to see if such things were possible.. M. Herissan, a French savant enclosed three live toads in separate cases of plaster in February of 1771. In April of 1784 Herissan opened the cases, which were still whole, and found two of the toads still alive, though the third was "a martyr to science."
This isn't something that takes millions of dollars of equipment and dozens of PhD's to do. Sheesh, go buy some frogs at the pet store and some plaster, and try it yourself! This is just begging for investigation by amateur scientists.

I also note that all the claims involve amphibians or reptiles, something that makes the claims slightly less extraordinary. Warm-blooded animals--mammals or birds--would be that much harder to believe.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 1:20 PM on December 17, 2002

The explanation is simple: aliens are using fossilization rays to entrap earth creatures within rocks, possibly for thier own amusement. What truly sucks is to be one of the numerous humans who "dissappear" each year. Some of these people get stuck in rocks not unlike the aforementioned frogs. You are next.
posted by timecube at 1:26 PM on December 17, 2002

imaswinger: just for the record - I got it.
posted by folktrash at 1:37 PM on December 17, 2002

Even if the lack of oxygen and food weren't a problem, I would think the alkaline quality of limestone (or plaster) would be.
posted by teg at 1:47 PM on December 17, 2002

botono9 - I was fully prepared for disagreement (that's what discussion is all about!), it's when simple difference of opinion is tinged with nastiness that I feel a bit hurt. I certainly didn't expect people to be so vehement over this post!!!

I didn't get the ragtime gal thing - could someone fill me in? Thanks!
posted by agregoli at 2:01 PM on December 17, 2002

It's what the frog in "One Froggy Evening" started singing whenever his box was opened, as also noted by rbgilbert.

That helpful comment aside, though, I must also scoff.

Scoff, scoff. No physical proof, almost every claimed instance far in the past. Extraordinary claims, and all that. Scoff, scoff.
posted by yhbc at 2:07 PM on December 17, 2002

Fun link.

I didn't get the ragtime gal thing - could someone fill me in?

Lyrics for rbgilbert's comment reference.
posted by rushmc at 2:13 PM on December 17, 2002

Thanks, guys. I still kinda feel like putting some toads in plaster though...
posted by agregoli at 2:18 PM on December 17, 2002

*one should think carefully before commenting on one's own post me thinks from silent corner*
posted by folktrash at 2:27 PM on December 17, 2002

I still kinda feel like putting some toads in plaster though...

Use lizards. Toads and frogs are having enough of a hard time breeding and surviving atm.
posted by rushmc at 6:22 PM on December 17, 2002

Sheesh, go buy some frogs at the pet store and some plaster, and try it yourself!

I wonder if it'll work with kittens?
posted by dgaicun at 7:00 PM on December 17, 2002

waldo, what does it live off of for those seven years? Are there other non insect animals that can suspend themselves like that?

I did a little research, and here's what I turned up.

Cyclorana platycephala lives in southern Australia, and sounds like a physically unremarkable frog in most regards. They eat small fish, other frogs and insects, feeding during the rainy season. Its the frog's process of "aestivation" (effectively hibernation) that makes this creature interesting. When it's really dry and hot, they dig into the sand and slow down their metabolism to virtually nothing, surviving on the tremendous amount of water that they can hold in their bladder. They build a skin around them by secreting a mucous, and this hardens into a protective shell. Aborigines have long known about these creatures, and will dig them up and give them a squeeze to drink the relatively fresh water that they contain. There are other frogs like this, even within Australia (Cyclorana australis and many species of Neobatrachus, for example), and even other creatures, including some Australian snails that have been studied, as well. Oh, and lungfish, of course, which is the classic example of creatures that do this.

Although all of this is interesting, it fails to answer how they manage to stay alive during this multi-month or even multi-year stay while encased within mud, with only the water that they bring and the air that seeps through. Because I ain't no biologist, I have decided that it is magic.
posted by waldo at 7:04 PM on December 17, 2002

agregoli - I might just suggest a little skeptical reading to balance out the unusual claims.
posted by hockeyman at 7:52 PM on December 17, 2002

Agregoli - I'm willing to suspend my disbelief about reptiles in stone....why not? I was only three decades ago that Chaos Theory was beyond belief. I think that the great mass of historical "anecdotal" evidence is the mother load for the discovery of unsuspected phenomenon...
posted by troutfishing at 8:20 PM on December 17, 2002

It's what the frog in "One Froggy Evening" started singing whenever his box was opened, as also noted by rbgilbert.

Ah, but, sadly, only when the guy who discovered him opened the box. The entire cartoon continues tragically on from this one fact, leading to an extended meditiation on the ephemerality of aesthetic experience, both questioning the idea of non-subjective reality and the folly of trying to make a million in vaudeville with a singing frog. The cartoon ends with a philosophical coda about the inevitibilty of human greed and ambition.

"If you can't [something] me, Honey, just [something] me, So come on, and tell me I'm your owwwunn!" Great dancing with an umbrella on the part of the frog. God bless Warner Brothers.
posted by jokeefe at 9:28 PM on December 17, 2002

According to this note there is at least one frog "mould" that has been saved for posterity, at the Brighton Museum, England (google cache, since the site seems to be kaput). The conclusion here is that a tiny hole through which the immature frog could have entered did exist, though it was hard to find because it had subsequently been filled with silt.

Another rather amusing article on the subject explores the phenomenon, along with an apparent "epidemic" of frogs showing up in cans of French green beans in the mid 1980s, concluding that "it finally appears that by their colour and shape, and by the beliefs and fears they motivate, toads are symbolically predisposed to find themselves in canned French beans." (google cache because it is a Tripod site).

An interesting comment in the second article refers to the fact that stone is no longer cut by hand, which, for our purposes, might explain why most reports predate the 20th century. My guess is that some of these stories are true, and that a scientifically valid explanation exists: it is known that certain amphibians and reptiles can live in states of suspended animation for some extended periods of time; the Brighton stone shows that a small aperture did exist through which a tadpole might have entered; the hole becomes blocked, making it appear as though the frog were encased in solid stone...
posted by taz at 12:53 AM on December 18, 2002

I was really depressed yesterday, and wasn't myself, sorry if I posted strangely.

Thanks, taz, I liked your links.
posted by agregoli at 8:22 AM on December 18, 2002

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